The Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) announced Thursday that conference games and championships in men's and women's soccer and volleyball will be postponed until spring 2021. Dalton State College competes in the SSAC in all seven of its sponsored sports, including men’s and women’s soccer.
The announcement came after the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which the SSAC and Dalton State compete in, announced that national championships in most fall sports will be postponed until spring 2021 due to concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
The SSAC, like the NAIA, left the door open for soccer teams to play regular season non-conference games in the fall if they desire, with the conference schedule, championships and national championships postponed until spring.
Dalton State sports information director Erik Simpson said Thursday afternoon that college officials were still considering whether to compete in non-conference soccer games in the fall.
Six of Dalton State's men’s soccer program’s 12 games on the 2020 schedule were set to be non-conference matches, including three against teams from the Appalachian Athletic Conference, which announced it will hold its season in the fall as planned. The DSC women’s program also has six scheduled non-conference games.
“I think it’s workable either way,” said Saif Alsafeer, who coaches both the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Dalton State. “As long as the details are worked out properly, I think we can do it whether we start playing now or whether we wait.”
Dalton State’s women's cross country team is set to compete in the SSAC in the fall as previously scheduled, although the NAIA national championships are postponed until spring.
“We're excited about the prospect of being able to race in the fall,” said Dean Thompson, cross country head coach. “We can only hope to be fortunate enough to make the national championship. If we do, we will be proud to be able to represent the Southern States Athletic Conference in the spring.”
In leaving cross country competition as scheduled in the fall, the SSAC cited the high crossover rate for athletes in cross country programs with track and field, which competes in the spring. Each member of the 2020 Dalton State cross country team is also listed on the roster for the track squad, also coached by Thompson.
“We would focus on cross country while we participate in track,” Thompson said of the possibility of training for both sports should the team make the national championship. “Our team loves the challenge of doing something different than has ever been done in the past.”
Alsafeer said the safety of the student-athletes is at the forefront of decision-making on sports at Dalton State.
“We’re extremely prepared for whatever we end up doing,” Alsafeer said. “We’re most interested in how we can best protect the student-athletes and at the same time deliver the appropriate student-athlete experience, whether that’s in the fall or spring or both.”